Friday, February 24, 2012

A girl with a sword - looks like my kind of book!

And she has green eyes, too - bonus points :)  Here's another Take 10 interview with debut YA author, T.G. Ayer.  I met Tee in Auckland, New Zealand when I was attending the NZ Romance Writer's conference.  She's super nice and we've become friends.  Her fantasy novel, DEAD RADIANCE was just released and I'm a part of her blog tour!

Leave a comment for Tee and I'll enter you in to win a signed copy of my book INSIDE (includes Inside Out and Outside In).  To be eligible comment by midnight March 2st EST, and include your email addy so I can email you the good news.  This is open world wide!

DEAD RADIANCE - Book 1 in the Valkyrie Novels

For as long as she can recall Bryn Halbrook has seen a golden aura around certain people, and it is only when her new best friend Joshua dies that she understands the glow means death. Bryn struggles to adapt to a new town and a new foster home while trying to deal with the guilt of being unable to save her friend. Until mysterious biker-boy, Aidan Lee arrives.

When Aidan unexpectedly takes off he leaves behind a shattered heart, a tonne of unanswered questions and a mysterious book that suggests Bryn is a Valkyrie. Bryn is faced with questions about Aidan’s real identity, the real reason he came to Craven, and that Odin, Freya and Valhalla just might be real.

As if accepting her new wings, new life and new home in Asgard isn’t difficult enough, Bryn is forced to find and return the precious necklace of the Goddess Freya. The only problem is – if she fails, Aidan will die.

Take 10 with Tee:

Maria, I just want to say thank you for hosting me on your blog :)

1.) Why this book? What made you want to write this story?

I love Mythology, and I hadn’t seen myth Norse based mythology out there- it’s the least done I think – so I mulled over mythological beings that would be cool and I went with the Valkyrie- although dragons do warm my heart (but that may just be another story entirely) *grin

2.) You live in New Zealand (how cool is that?), how has your location inspired your writing?

New Zealand is gorgeous- and there is so much I still have to see in this lovely country, but I have a major part of my heart still in South Africa. I’m afraid I’m a Durban girl at heart, all that sun, sea and surf – too wonderful not to miss it like crazy.

For this series living in NZ was inspirational in depicting Bryn’s loneliness and her sense of not belonging, which I think is true for any immigrant. And, the Valkyrie series is also set in the mythological Norse realm of Asgard- the ice covered mountain ranges in the South Island were definitely a source of inspiration for me, along with bathing in the healing waters of a geyser.

3.) Why YA fantasy? Is there something special about this genre that draws you to write?

My teens – yup, they are really the reason I’m writing YA. I wasn’t given a choice really- they said YA and I had to say OK. Kids! *rolls eyes. I write across genres though so even if I continue in the YA vein I may come out with a non-YA fantasy or horror every now and then… we’ll see.

And the genre itself – it’s all make-believe isn’t it? And don’t we love to daydream? Of course, my novel does contain the elements true to any life changing choice or situation, and deals with issues and choices that are not always restricted to the teen generation.

4.) What do you find most interesting about Bryn Halbrook?

Her quiet strength and that she doesn’t really have much confidence in herself until she is faced with choices. The ability to make choices is empowering in itself and when a choice is given to someone who hasn’t had that privilege before it is sometimes interesting to watch how different people deal with it.

And of course I love her independence. For some reason I don’t write weak, simpering, dependent, love-crazed main characters *wink [Thank goodness - neither do I ;]

5.) What else do you enjoy doing besides writing? Interests? Hobbies?

Don’t tell anyone but I make fancy cakes- I just love the process of creating a piece of art (I always have to be far away when the cake is cut though…way too traumatizing). I was waiting for either Duff Goldman or Buddy Valastro to offer me a job! But no, I have truly found my dream job. I’m artistic but I’m afraid I’m also very analytical too. I’m my own worst enemy.

6.) Did you have to do any special research for this book? What did you learn that you didn't know before?

Mostly just researching Norse Mythology both online, in the library and a few select purchases of Norse Myth textbooks. I have always loved the diversity of the Norse gods but I loved learning about how distinctively human they were. They got up to all sorts of mischief, like Loki and how he always steals Freya’s jewels, not to mention all the political power-plays. Sometime they seemed more fickle in nature than most humans. I still have so much more to learn about the whole Mythology that I think I am sure to enjoy following Bryn through her travels through the series.

7.) How did you become a writer? Is this what you saw yourself growing up to be? Or did it take you by surprise?

I’ve always written. I grew up on Enid Blyton, so when I was eight I was writing little stories in the Blyton tradition – elves, fairies and my own version of Moonface from the Farway Tree adventures. It’s a real pity that most of my creative works were snagged by well-meaning teachers who thought my little stories were amazing so I never managed to create my own collection.

And I’ve always written poetry – in fact I still have a book filled with poems that I’d written from age 11 to 20- some hideous that will never see the light of publication and others that are fairly good that I wouldn’t be too embarrassed to show to the world.

I have to admit, though, that the actual decision to make writing my dream come true was something that happened over a period of time. I’d decided to try my hand at writing again when we were unpacking and my daughter read a couple of chapters of an old piece I’d written – an Egyptian fantasy mystery. When she exclaimed that it was really good I laughed rather loudly. But she’d sown the seed and very soon I was Googling and borrowing writing books to see what I could do about my long dead dream.

8.) Do you have a writing routine? Talk process for a moment, how do the words get on the page?

I usually work from 8.30 to 11.00 then take a break to work out (when I’m good) and have lunch (when I remember). Then it’s back to work from 12.30 to 3.30. I take a break when the teens get home or when I cook. After dinner and a walk with DH to clear my head, I usually get back to my PC and work until midnight. That’s the weekly routing. Weekends I try to do more reading and research unless I’m editing or on a writing deadline.

I used to be a full on pantser but I’ve found that creating a plan really helps my momentum and my productivity too [traitor!!]. I’ve started using scene cards recently and I’ve found them to be a total success.

9.) Office? Closet? Corner of the living room? Do you have a set place to write? A favorite?

We have a small apartment so space is at a premium. I have two areas- my main study is just a corner of our living room- this is where I work when the troops are out. And I have a little alcove area behind my bedroom door that I escape to during school holidays or when the people in my house watch movies and pretend they have surround sound!

10.) What are you writing now? What's coming out next?

Right now I’m finishing the last few chapters of DEAD EMBERS which is the second book in the Valkyrie series. It’s expected to be out in May or June.

In addition I am working on the next series – also YA fantasy and also mythology but I’m keeping my lips zipped on that. Let’s just says it’s never been done before. Look for the first book in the series coming out in Fall 2012.

Links to find Tee on the web:


Link to purchase DEAD RADIANCE:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Fantastic Deal - INSIDE is 2 books in 1!

I'm not kidding - this is a fabulous bargain - INSIDE is INSIDE OUT and OUTSIDE IN together in one book for the fantastic price of $8.99.  According to Amazon, the book is being released today and I know you'll find them at your local Walmart, too :) 

The cover is from the UK edition - they always do a beautiful job - I've been very lucky with my covers from all over the world.

Here's the back copy: The world of Inside is simple. Do your job, stay out of the way and don't dream of anything better. Because as every Scrub knows, there are no other options.

Until Trella—the Queen of the Pipes, as some call her—gets involved with a revolution that will rock her world….

Trella was just doing a favor for a friend—her only friend. Hiding an injured man from the Pop Cops seemed easy enough—though dangerous. But then she discovered that the myths of Outside might be real….

Being Inside's hero only left Trella with more work. Ducking those responsibilities, she continued to explore her stark world—and found something she never expected. Strangers. From Outside…

For those who haven't read these books, this is an excellent chance to pick up both  ;> 

You can read the first chapter of INSIDE OUT here:

And since this blog is turning into an all things Inside - I posted a picture of Sheepy and the video book trailer below:

Sheepy Rocks!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Author Q&A + Contest with Sabrina Benulis

Today I have an interview with Sabrina Benulis about her debut novel, ARCHON which was recently released!  Isn't the cover gorgeous!! Sabrina was a student at Seton Hill University when I attended - I graduated before her but we SHUers are a close knit group :)  I will admit I haven't read ARCHON yet (my bad!) - but it sounds fascinating and a copy is on the way.

Sabrina is also offering a signed copy of ARCHON to one commenter - please include an email addy so I can get in touch with you - the contest ends midnight EST Feb. 23rd 2012 - US/Canada readers are only eligible for the book.  However international readers who leave a comment will be able to win a signed cover flat from one of my novels (a rare collector's item :).  Please let me know if you are not in the US/Canada in your comment. 

Here's the cover copy: There are some things worse than death . . .

For years, Angela Mathers has been plagued by visions of a supernatural being—an angel with beguiling eyes and magnificent wings who haunts her thoughts and seduces her dreams. Newly freed from a mental institution where she had been locked away for two years, Angela hopes that attending Westwood Academy, the Vatican’s exclusive university, will bring her peace and a semblance of normality.

But Angela isn’t normal. With her stain of dark red hair and alabaster skin, she is a blood head—a freak, a monster, and the possible fulfillment of a terrifying prophecy. Blessed with strange, mystical powers, blood heads hold a special place in the Academy. Among them, one special blood head is more powerful than them all: the Archon, the human reincarnation of the dead angel Raziel. And when the Archon arises as foretold, it will rule the supernatural universe.

Barely in control of her own life, Angela has no ambition to conquer an entire universe, not when she’s suddenly contending with a dangerous enemy who is determined to destroy her and a magnetic novitiate who wants to save her. But the choice might not be her own . . .

Take 10 with Sabrina:

1.) Why this book? What made you want to write this story?

I first developed the idea for what would be the Books of Raziel series in my last semester of college, which was about six years ago now. I had always wanted to write a very unique story about angels and demons. At that time, angels were practically non-existent in fantasy fiction, and most of what had already been done had been done to death. So really, it was my desire to write about angels, to write about them differently, and of course to write about all the characters in my head that finally forced me to sit down at my computer and get to it.

2.) Is ARCHON your thesis novel from Seton Hill University? Tell us about your experience with SHU – did the program help with writing ARCHON?

Yes, ARCHON is what you could call the first third of my thesis novel from Seton Hill. However it has gone through significant changes since then, and even the rest of the story--though the same in its essence--will be very different from what I initially wrote. But the spirit is there, and that's what's important. Being at Seton Hill University was a great experience and taught me an incredible amount about writing, about myself as a writer, and about the publishing industry in general. It was also a great opportunity to meet and make friends with other authors and writers!

3.) Why did you chose a paranormal element? Is there something special about angels that called to you?

I've always loved reading about the paranormal and the supernatural, and I especially loved reading about mythology and other religions of the world. That definitely influenced me into writing fantasy and paranormal fiction. As far as angels are concerned, I was fascinated by angels as they were in "reality"--that is, alien and superior beings to humans that could be both so beautiful and so terrifying at the same time. It was that otherworldly, haunting kind of danger to them that spurred me into writing about them in such a unique way. I say unique because most people either know angels as pretty women with wings, a la Touched by an Angel, or as attractive, brooding guys with wings, as seen in pretty much everything else. Very few people are willing to tackle the fact that they are essentially inhuman and most likely would not think or behave as humans do.

4.) What do you find most interesting about Angela Mathers?

Angela Mathers is fascinating to me because she starts off in a very dark place in her life, yet she will ultimately have a choice to either go even darker or work her way to an unimaginable summit. She is far from a Mary Sue--Angela has real and gritty flaws. But when you're the candidate to be a dark messiah, your life will most likely not be roses, and it would only be logical that she would have issues that might push her in one direction or the other. But besides the flaws, Angela also has an incredibly strong sense of loyalty and determination, as well as a surprising vulnerability. In the second book, as she becomes more and more attached to the people in her life and the idea of what is right and what is wrong, I think readers will be astonished both at her transformation and her destiny as a character.

5.) What else do you enjoy doing besides writing? Interests? Hobbies?

Well, I suppose it goes without saying that I love to read! I really enjoy good Japanese anime and manga, and watch and peruse it whenever I have spare time. I also love video games, especially the old-school Super Nintendo fare. Other than that, I am a rather ordinary woman--shopping, eating out, hanging out with friends and sneaking naps when I have the time.

6.) Did you have to do any special research for this book? What did you learn that you didn't know before?

I did do quite a bit of research on angels, demons, and jinn before I wrote the book. You might be creeped out to know how accurate some of these views on angels can be in ARCHON. I say this in a general sense, of course! Paranormal research books can be somewhat scary, and I recommend reading them with a light on. Perhaps the number one rule I learned is that if someone claims they talk to angels and know so much about them, they are usually talking to quite the opposite . . . Anyway, most people also don't know there is a real Book of Raziel. Whether it was written by Raziel or not is up for debate, but I do know you can buy versions of it online. haha

7.) How did you become a writer? Is this what you saw yourself growing up to be? Or did it take you by surprise?

I'm one of those rarities where it took me completely by surprise. Until college, fiction writing was a hobby for me and little else. It took encouraging words from others to push me into realizing that it might be my true calling.

8.) Do you have a writing routine? Talk process for a moment, how do the words get on the page?

My writing routine is very simple, and it mostly just involves visualizing at least the first few elements of a scene, and then sitting down at my computer and typing, typing, typing. The most important part of that process is being in what I call "the zone", where I am just a channel for the words and the characters. So when people tell me it all seems so magical, I am actually inclined to agree with them. I can't believe I'm writing these books either! It is essential though to have some kind of schedule for your writing. When I'm working on a first draft of revision, there's a lot of gritting my teeth and sitting down to work--even when I'm very tired.

9.) Office? Closet? Corner of the living room? Do you have a set place to write? A favorite?

I have a little office of my own right now to write in. I'm currently in the process of remodeling it--taking down old wallpaper borders and the like--so it's nothing fancy at the moment. But it has a chair, a desk, a lamp, and my laptop, and that's really all that matters in the end. I need a space like that, sequestered from the world and mostly in silence. How people can write otherwise is beyond me, but hey, everyone has their own talents!

10.) What are you writing now? What's coming out next?

I am currently waiting for editorial notes on the second book in The Books of Raziel trilogy, with the manuscript having the tentative title of COVENANT. I'll be honest, I think people are going to be surprised at where the story is going. ARCHON is merely an introduction. Book 2 is where we begin the real meat of the story and characters.

Other than that, I am tossing around two separate ideas for a new novel series and I have the dilemma of choosing which one of them is actually novel worthy. With any luck, shortly in the future, you'll find out! ;-)

Links for Sabrina:


Facebook Author Page:


Amazon Link (hardcover currently priced at $15.53):

Monday, February 13, 2012

Jinxing the Winter and Skiing in the Rain

Yep - it's my fault.  I put a jinx on winter here in Pennsylvania.  It started in late October - the 27th to be exact.  A friend from Montana asked me if it had snowed yet in PA.  I answered her with a "It never snows here in October - we get all our snow in January and February."  Uh huh...  Well it snowed 6 inches on October 30th in a freak storm just to prove me wrong (see pictures).  And we've had no significant snow in Jan or Feb and with many days in the 60 + degree F range, I doubt we'll have any.  Plus it messed up the weather on a global scale and I believe Europe and Alaska are getting all our snow. 

As an avid skier, I'm most put out by this mild winter.  The conditions have been horrible. (Yes, I know this is more reason to come to Utah - but is Utah getting any snow?).  Since my daughter is involved in her school's ski club, I go along to Ski Roundtop Mtn every week with her (which she promptly ditches me for her friends and I ski alone - she's the one shoveling snow off the trampoline).  Due to this lovely winter (yes, that's sarcasm) one night it was pouring rain and we were there.  Yep - all ten of us. 

Well as my daughter put on her ski clothes, I glanced around the lodge at the few  people hanging out with large cups of hot liquid steaming in front of them with their laptops or books, looking very cozy, warm and dry.  Back in my youthful heyday - my group of friends call these people "lounge lizards." This term also referred to those who skied for an hour and then spent the remainder of the day inside.  As the rain pounded the slopes, I considered joining these lounge lizards.  It was very very tempting and I had a book with me....

But I couldn't do it.  I donned my gear, schlepped out to the slopes, and got on the lift.  It was a miserable lift ride.  The rain drummed on my helmet and jacket.  It was so foggy, I could only see four lift chairs in front of me (all empty by the way).  I looked back longingly at the warm glow shining through the lodge's windows and decided - one run then done! 

Except the conditions weren't that bad.  And the fog muted the sounds so those pesky snowboarders who usually blow by me sounding like a freight train under full steam slipped by with nary a sound. It also helped there was only one snowboarder on the slopes and no ice either.  Other benefits became apparent.  No lift lines.  No crowded slopes.  Peaceful.  (the life ride remained miserable, though and I endured multiple trips because the skiing was so much fun)  Who would have thought! 

And once again I'm reminded not to give into my reluctance  - because the times I do something despite my hesitation end up being the best times.

So if you're still with me - I also wanted to post a few links.  There's an interview with Avry and Kerrick that I'd suggest you read AFTER you read TOUCH OF POWER :)

And a deleted scene from MAGIC STUDY:

And an interview and contest to win a free TOP with me here: